ST. MARKS, Fla. - A solitary, wild American flamingo has ornithologists from Michigan, Arkansas and other parts of the country coming to Florida to catch a glimpse of it.
The sight of wild pink flamingos was once plentiful in Florida’s tropical climes in the 1800s. But by the end of the century, through settlement, hunting and feather and egg harvesting sightings of the birds have been scarce, according to the Audubon Society.
The bird was first spotted Oct. 31 at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“It just captivates people. How often do you get to see something like that in nature?” Refuge Ranger Robin Will told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It is that people are fascinated when nature does something unexpected like that.”
This is the second time Will has seen a flamingo at the preserve in the 40 years she has worked there. The last time was in 1995. The previous recorded sighting of one at the park as in 1972.
It is not tagged so it is not from Busch Gardens, any other zoos, or from the established flock at the Hialeah Racetrack.
“I am going to assume he or she was swept up in a big part of (Hurricane) Michael’s turning radius and somehow maybe landed further west then made its way to the refuge,” Will told the Democrat.
The last time the birds were seen at the park were after Hurricane Allison in 1995 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
The birds are known to fly considerable distances in response to changing conditions, according to the Audubon Society.
Before Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle, it threatened Mexico and the Caribbean, known flamingo habitats.
A flock of flamingos have been seen in the Everglades coming back over the last few years, according to the Audubon Society.
“For a long time, the thought was that the majority of the free-flying birds escaped,” Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell told the Democrat. “Is it that it’s a bird that is unusual in north Florida or a harbinger of what could be one of Florida’s comeback stories?”
After the research was published in February, Florida wildlife officials removed the flamingo from its listing of nonnative species.